When the stars of the “Iron Man” franchise returned to the set for a third round, there was one difference that was bigger than any new characters or stories that could be introduced. Jon Favreau, who directed the first two movies, was returning as an actor only, playing the role of Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) bodyguard, Happy Hogan.
Taking his place was someone with only one other feature directing credit on their resume, the low budget “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang,” Shane Black. Black was an interesting, though not entirely shocking, choice for the job. While he had only directed one film, which starred Downey, he was the screenwriter responsible for “Lethal Weapon,” “The Monster Squad,” “The Last Boy Scout” and “Last Action Hero,” so big budget movies were not a foreign concept to him.
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However, now he was entering a world that had already been constructed, with actors that were used to working with Favreau. Gwyneth Paltrow admitted at a press conference for the new movie that she wasn’t on board with the change in directors right off the bat. “When I started ‘Iron Man 3’ I was very uncomfortable with the fact that Jon wasn’t there directing,” she says. She credits Favreau for casting the movies, and part of “Marvel’s The Avengers” eventual success. However, as production went on, Paltrow says, “I really warmed to Shane and his terrible outfits,” citing his work on the screenplay, which he co-wrote with Drew Pearce, and the finished product of the movie.
It’s no surprise that Downey was a fan of bringing in Black after their prior work together, but he thinks the risks the director was willing to take helped make the film special, specifically the casting of child actor Ty Simpkins as a young counterpart for Stark. “Shane had this idea of this kind of capraesque departure,” he says, “I think we all knew we were taking risks, and we were kind of out of what would have been the familiar territory. And his idea of a super hero running into a little kid in the heartland of America, I think wound up being a wise choice and kind of a calculated risk.”
As for Black, he says the idea of reuniting with Downey while receiving tips from Favreau was “too attractive to pass” on. He says it was Downey who made the call to invite him to take over the director’s chair, after working briefly with the actor and Favreau during the very early stages of the first two movies.
He also says he’s grateful to Marvel for letting him tell the story he did. “They said, ‘We’ve done the Avengers, we made a lot of money. But let’s not do that again right now. Let’s do something different.’ And they allowed for a different, sort of stand-alone film,” he explains of the movie he describes as “more of a thriller.”
“Iron Man 3” is in theaters May 3.